I took a one-hour flight over the weekend and ended up talking to a smart business owner — she has a bakery in a small town in Oregon — who doesn’t have any Web presence.
What’s really cool is that her business, as she described it, is doing just fine. She makes a good living, it’s in a small town she loves, she knows all of her customers, and she enjoys her days. She loves the actual work. She enjoys the baking and she enjoys the interaction in the shop.
She is online, but in her own way. She has personal email and uses it often to keep in touch with grown children and grandchildren.
So, what do you think? Does she need to start a blog? Should she be announcing daily specials on Twitter? Should she have a Facebook account? Should she be apologizing to me (sort of) as we talk on the plane because she doesn’t do any of that stuff?
I don’t think so.
Sure, I do see that the online world provides a great leveler, a wonderful opportunity for even the smallest business to share and validate expertise and build a reputation. I’ve known some and read about many businesses that do very well in online reputation and social media. Still, let’s not assume that everybody has to follow the same path. Are there additional opportunities for my bakery friend? Sure. Is she crazy to just do what she’s doing? What do you think?
(Image: DUSAN ZIDAR/Shutterstock)
15 thoughts on “Social Media Business Reality Check”
Great point Tim. I believe that this whole local business craze is made for the owner that lives in a city or near a city – period. If she lives in a small town, odds are she knows her client base intimately. In cities, half the people coming in your place of business is a stranger and that’s when marketing makes sense . . . but I will say this, she should at least get her customers emails at a minimum. If she’s comfortable, which you said she is, she can let everyone know about a new batch of cookies or cakes she’ll be making next week. If the guy on the other side of town was thinking of giving “sweets” a break for the next few months, an email from her might get him back in the store and every little bit helps!
I live in Brasil and Internet is yet a marketing tool for bigger bussiness in big cities. sometimes when I’m visiting a small city with small business I find myself thinking about this… and the point, I think, is that these people are happy in their roles, but at first, they built their relations with good sense and passion, and no digital tool / tecnology will ever translate the sincerity of a smile…
Tim, I somehow find it refreshing in the many small towns I visit pursing my flyfishing addiction that there are many business owners that think like your baker. They have always been social networkers…just the old-fashioned way in-person instead of using technology.
I agree with Marcus, and also the fact that everyone else may well be doing it doesn’t necessitate the need. Its business and ROI after all?
Personally, it’s refreshing to see not only that this bakery exists, but that someone is actually writing about the fact the baker doesn’t need to waste their time worrying about a Facebook page or some other technology “fix”. It’s easy to forget that until fifteen years ago, every successful business ever known to humankind somehow managed the same trick! It is in a way, somewhat obvious though that a brick-and-mortar business in a small town (apparently big enough to support it) can do well without the standard tech accessories if they are selling something in high demand. I know in my bedroom-town suburb of 40,000 that if a real, decent bakery opened up at one of the three small shopping plazas we have out here, they would not even need to advertise let alone bother with any web activity.
I think this is a great point…she knows her target market and has no need for b2b or even b2c social media. I think my favorite digital story goes back a few years, when a paving contractor client of mine put up a web site that showed a picture of a paving machine, the quote ‘fair prices and quality work’ and his phone number, and got calls from all over the US. Simple is often good.
Tim, thanks for the article and more food for thought on this complex topic. I find Social Media (in small business) works best when it’s truly social and when we find our own voice that reflects the personalities and the culture our customers find as they step through our front door. If Betty baker has found success without it, more power to her. At some point, she may become personally interested in Facebook or twitter or promotional emails which could be a motivator for change. I would caution that unless she has an email promotional plan in mind, resist collecting customer emails. Customers may become excited about the potential of receiving the “cookie of the week” email…and then bummed out when they don’t receive it.
There’s certainly no One Size Fits all solution when it comes to social networking; from Bend, Oregon to Dallas, Texas…we’re all working hard to figure it out!
Just think what business she would do if she were online for “non-regular” patrons to find her. She will never know. But if she is happy doing what she is doing, why ask why.
If I am happy to be mediocre, is that ok with those that push the limits constantly trying to improve and or expand?
What if someone is happy with their 9th grade education and what it gets them in life? Is that ok too?
Glad to hear this baker is sticking with her recipe for success. Sure, tweeting or blogging might help her grow, but who would benefit from that growth? Not her loyal customers, who clearly appreciate the old-fashioned, personal service they’re currently getting. And not the entrepreneur herself, who clearly has a life she loves and has no desire to add more stress in exchange for more money.
I hope she won’t let critics like “michael” convince her that she’s “mediocre” in any way. She owns her story, and she can follow any plot line she chooses. So far, it looks like she’s writing her own happy ending.
I found this article to be very interesting. In this day and age it is clear that many people are implementing different social media tactics as a way to communicate to its customers and stakeholders and publicize his/her business. However as a public relations student I am learning more and more that if you are unable to constantly keep up with whatever social media tools you choose to utilize than it is rather pointless. Social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook and even blogging need to be monitored and constantly updated. There needs to be a definitive purpose in partaking in such tools.
I’m with Robert Jones. Define your own success and live into it. As long as you’re happy, go with it.
Michael – Happiness is more than a bank account.
Sure, keep off the digital grid with your rural biz as long as you’d like. It’s your money. When your small town competitor comes a blazing down the road on mobile platforms, Foursquare, Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, and Google Places; you may be singing a different tune.
If your in a tourist town, you’ll want to be the first with Social Media presence. If you can’t make time or don’t want to launch your streams or engage; outsource your business SM marketing to a VA or professional who understands your business and needs.
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